Monday, July 25, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 480 pages

 Young Adult

 March 2010

I'm not normally a fan of YA books, but this one caught my attention.  I can best sum it up as Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day meets The Lovely Bones.  Samantha, Sam, narrates the story which is basically a 7 part rerun of the day of her death.  Sam is a high school senior who is part of the popular clique in the second semester of senior year.  She has three best friends and a popular, Lacrosse playing, boyfriend.

I know that this sounds slightly morbid, but I was quite fascinated with the book.  I couldn't put it down and read far too late to finish it.  I've read a number of reviews and other bloggers who hated Sam, the main character, and her friends.  I actually found myself sympathizing with Sam and really disliking her friend Lindsay, the leader of the girl pack.  The author tries to give you reasons to be sympathetic towards Lindsay by the end, but I just couldn't.  I've seen way too many Lindsays in real life who do tremendous damage to others along the way.

However, I did feel tremendous empathy for Sam, and not just because she's dead!  I could truly understand how she felt torn between following along with her friends and doing the right thing.  I also understood the moments of self-absorption because that rang true for the typical teenager.  Sam's struggle to understand what was happening, and her final realization, felt very real to me. On a spiritual level, her soul's struggle made sense.

The bullying of Juliet felt, unfortunately, very real and was an essential element in both Sam's and Lindsay's stories.  I think Juliet is the character who will haunt me.  It brought home the costs of bullying in teens and how vigilant we, as adults, need to be, but, also, how helpless we can be. 

I truly enjoyed the book.  I would caution that there is under age drinking, drug use, and talk of sex in the story.  I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars.  I can't quite give it 5 stars because I wanted more redemption Lindsay's character.

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